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Safe zones campaign for Rohingyas

Published : Wednesday, 13 September, 2017 at 12:00 AM Count : 225

Bangladesh has put forward a right proposal at the right time when hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have been set to flight over the past weeks following brutal security operation aimed at ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.
The proposal for creating 'safe zones' for Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state has been intimated to Myanmar government through the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The safe zones to be created in three Rohingya dominated areas of Rakhine state and run by aid groups Red Cross and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The proposal suggested that people displaced by the violence be relocated there under the supervision of an international organisation, such as the United Nations (UN).
Bangladesh expects that the proposal will be heeded by Myanmar if backed by most member countries of the UN. India, China, Russia and Japan which are yet to issue strong notes against the excesses done by the Myanmar forces on unarmed Rohingyas, are also expected to back the idea of safe zones presented by Bangladesh.
Rohingya dominated regions comprising Maugdaw and Buthidong towns are adjacent to Bangladesh. Most of the Rohingyas are concentrated in this region.
Experts suggest that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina should take up the drive herself in addition to diplomatic contacts to woo supports from the leading nations of the world whose roles matter much in shaping the world politics.
It's a crucial time for Bangladesh to weigh the phrase "a friend in need a friend indeed." For its Liberation War time allies India and Russia, Bangladesh reciprocated befittingly supporting their international stance on different issues. In addition Bangladesh lent cooperation to India not only in beating its insurgents, but also to boost its business and connectivity to northeast states via Bangladesh.
From Russia, Bangladesh also has swallowed bitter pills of nuclear reactors, which are not needed at all at this stage. It also buys defence equipment including costly combat aircrafts from Russia. China opposed the independence of Bangladesh. However, Bangladesh also revived friendship in the post liberation war period. The friendship culminated through politics, business, investment and defence cooperation. China is now the biggest trade partner of Bangladesh shipping goods, equipments worth USD 8 billion a year.

***Experts suggest that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina should take up the drive herself in addition to diplomatic contacts to woo supports from the leading nations of the world whose roles matter much in shaping the world politics.***

Japan is also a big development partner of Bangladesh in different sectors including infrastructure and energy sectors. These three Asian countries along with Russia will come up to support Bangladesh in its effort to stop the repeated exodus of Rohingya Muslims, who have been reduced to some 0.5 million over the last five years from 1.1 million.
In 1950 Rohingya population was not less than 2.2 million, but due to the ethnic cleansing the number was reduced to 1.1 million in 2012.
The persecution on Rohingyas had been continuing for centuries, but it culminated since 1946 when Rohingya leaders met Pakistan would be Independence Leader Mohammad Ali Jinnah to include Rohingya dominated part of Arakan (now Rakhine) adjacent to Teknaf with East Pakistan now Bangladesh. However, Jinnah did not accept the proposal lest Buddhists join Hindus in India to frustrate his mission for independent Pakistan.
If Bangladesh can sail its new proposal of safe zones the wishes of Rohingya forefathers will start a new to be materialised. Meanwhile the ongoing exodus of Rohingya Muslims from the Rakhine State to Bangladesh has become the largest in terms of the number as the United Nations agencies have put the figure close to nearly 320,000 on Monday.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN migration agency International Organisation for Migration fear that the number Rohingyas fleeing will increase as state-sponsored atrocities continue in Myanmar.
In the great exodus of 1992 and 1978, some 250,000 and 200,000 Rohingyas crossed into Bangladesh respectively to escape persecution of military junta, according to the UNHCR. It is irony that under a one and a half year-old democratic government much more Rohingyas are compelled to flee the country.
Meanwhile the limited shelter capacity is already exhausted and the new arrivals are now squatting in makeshift shelters that have mushroomed along the road and on available land in the Ukhiya and Teknaf areas, said the UNHCR.
Most Rohingya refugees arrive on foot, walking through the jungle and high hills for several days. Thousands are braving long and risky voyages across the rough seas of the Bay of Bengal. Many of them have been killed when boats carrying them sank in the tumultuous river Naf estuary. Bangladesh authorities and rescuers retrieved nearly 100 bodies drowned in boat sinking. Dozens are still missing.
Many Rohingyas with bullet wounds sustain during security operations in Myanmar were treated in different hospitals in Chittagong region where more than a dozen succumbed to injuries.
Meanwhile several Rohingyas were killed by landmines recently as they tried to cross from Myanmar. Border Guard Bangladesh and Amnesty International said there were two landmine incidents on Sunday, including a blast that blew off a man's leg.
The number swelled as Myanmar security forces intensified deadly atrocities in the name of fighting suspected militants of Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), after the group attacked law enforcers on August 25, to retaliate perennial persecution of Rohingyas.
As the number increased dramatically within just two weeks, UNHCR joined Bangladesh and some other major Muslim countries calling for urgent action to address the root causes that triggered the exodus, so that the displaced Rohingyas can eventually return home in safety and dignity.
But a recent action of Bangladesh's greatest ally India has shocked the countries which seek to assert diplomatic pressure on Myanmar to stop the exodus by ceasing persecution of Rohingyas.
An Indian parliamentary delegation led by the Lower House of Parliament Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, distanced itself from the Bali Declaration adopted at the "World Parliamentary Forum on Sustainable Development" held in Nusa Dua, Indonesia on September 7.
However, in a statement issued hours later, the Parliament Secretariat said it was not the part of the declaration as it the issue was not the agenda to be discussed in the forum.
The  conference declaration however, went on to "call on all parties to contribute to the restoration of stability and security, exercise maximum self-restraint from using violent means, respect the human rights of all people in Rakhine state regardless of their faith and ethnicity, as well as facilitate and guarantee safe access for humanitarian assistance."
The Indian stance came on the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrapped up his maiden three-day bilateral visit to Myanmar where he backed the de-facto leader of Myanmar government in the face of extremist violence in Rakhine state.
The stance of India has embarrassed  the government of Bangladesh, which despite of criticism by major political parties in the country has been moving ahead giving all out cooperation to India including fighting against militants.

Nizam Ahmed is Business Editor, The Daily Observer

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